Smuggling and Importation of Drugs in NJ

The illegal drug market has some similarities to markets of legitimate products in terms of its business model. Heroin and cocaine are produced outside the U.S. and then smuggled or otherwise imported. Drugs are supplied to wholesalers who then sell it to “street-level” dealers who basically represent retailers that supply consumers. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is largely responsible for trying to prevent the flow of drugs from entering the country.

New Jersey's Infrastructure Supports Major Drug Distribution

In a 2018 DEA report, it was explained that New Jersey is positioned as an ideal point of entry for smugglers for several reasons. The region serves as a gateway to the major drug markets of New York City and Philadelphia, which have a combined population of more than 10 million.

Drugs are able to initially enter the region through Newark, Kennedy, or LaGuardia airports and the Port of Newark is the largest on the East Coast. Further distribution is then made possible using the region's network of six major and ten secondary interstates.

New York / New Jersey High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)

The primary wholesale distribution of heroin is conducted by Colombian, Mexican, and Dominican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs). Gangs and various local ethnic groups tend to dominate the retail level. These include the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, as well as other Dominican organizations. Often drugs are transported with legitimate goods via private carriers and the U.S. Postal Service.

New Jersey Legislative Intent

At the state level in (2C:35-1.1), they recognize the importance of preventing drug-related activity at all levels of distribution; however, they are particularly focused on “expedited prosecution and enhanced punishment of repeat drug offenders and upper echelon members of organized narcotics trafficking networks.” These individuals are considered the largest threat to society overall.

New Jersey Efforts to Remove Financial Incentive

In (2C:35-2) the legislature states that large drug smuggling and distribution is predominately facilitated by “professional” criminals. They have created “enhanced” penalties that seek to remove the lucrative financial incentives derived from this type of crime. The Comprehensive Drug Reform Act allows for fines to be imposed that are between three to five times the “street values” of the drugs in crimes. In addition, these offenders are subject to seizure and forfeiture of property and assets regardless of whether they can be clearly linked to criminal activity.

Leader of Narcotics Trafficking Network (2C:35-3)

The state defines a network of narcotics trafficking as when two or more people conspire to manufacture, distribute, or ship the most dangerous controlled substances. These include “methamphetamine, lysergic acid diethylamide, phencyclidine, gamma hydroxybutyrate, flunitrazepam and those classified in Schedule I or II.” Another element of the offense is that there is an individual(s) that acts as a financier of the operation or an individual(s) functioning in a management or supervisory role of at least one individual.

This crime is considered to be a first-degree offense where a 25-year prison sentence may be imposed without any eligibility for parole. Fines may also be imposed of up to $750,000 or equal to five times the “street” value of the drugs associated with the crime.

Fortification of Drug Manufacturing or Distributing Premises (2C:35-4.1)

Those involved in drug manufacturing or distribution are aware of the severity of the potential penalties that may be imposed. These individuals or networks often go to great lengths to physically fortify their operation to prevent intrusions or any access by law enforcement. One such means of doing so involves using some form of a booby trap.

This involves any covert device that can cause bodily injury to a person who approaches or enters a certain area or structure. Examples include devices that can cause destruction when a “trip wire” or “other triggering mechanism” is activated. A structure may be any building, vehicle, ship or vessel, aircraft, etc. The means of fortification may “prevent, impede, delay, or provide a warning.”

Anyone who puts a booby trap in place to secure a structure used for drug manufacturing, selling, or possessing with intent to distribute may be charged with a second-degree offense. If a booby trap is activated and causes bodily harm the charge is elevated to a first-degree offense. Other forms of fortifying a structure commonly involve doors made of steel, dogs, lookouts, crossbars, and more.

Drug Trafficking Related Offenses (2C:35-5)

These provisions relate to intentional acts committed to “manufacture, distribute, dispense, or to possess or have under his control with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense, a controlled dangerous substance” as follows:

Cocaine or Heroin

  • In a quantity of five ounces or more, the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the first degree.
  • In a quantity of between one-half ounce and five ounces, the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the second degree.
  • In a quantity of under one-half ounce, the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the third degree.

Methamphetamine (“Crystal Meth”)

  • In a quantity of five ounces or more, the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the first degree.
  • In a quantity of between one-half ounce and five ounces, the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the second degree.
  • In a quantity of under one-half ounce, the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the third degree.

Marijuana or Hashish

  • In a quantity of 25 pounds, 50 or more marijuana plants, or five or more pounds of hashish the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the first degree.
  • In a quantity of between five and 25 pounds of marijuana, between 10 and 50 marijuana plants, or hashish in a quantity between one and five pounds the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the second degree.
  • In a quantity of between one ounce and five pounds of marijuana or between five grams and one pound of hashish the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the third degree.
  • If the quantity of marijuana is less that one ounce or less than five grams of hashish the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the fourth degree.

Offense Level

Incarceration Period

Maximum Fine

First Offense

10 to 20 years

Up to $200,000

Second Degree

5 to 10 years

Up to $150,000

Third Degree

3 to 5 years

Up to $15,000

Fourth Degree

18 months

Up to $10,000

Criminal Defense Attorney for High-Level Drug Offenses

Those facing criminal allegations such as for importing or smuggling controlled substances may face very significant penalties including lengthy prison sentences and massive fines if convicted. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the knowledge and experience to effectively challenge the evidence as part of a comprehensive strategy of defense. For a case evaluation, contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

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When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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